British Columbia·Photos

Hobbits, space marines and superheroes battle for charity at Vancouver gaming event

An annual charity tabletop gaming tournament saw players break out odd-looking dice, thick rule books and intricately painted armies of figurines for a weekend of competition and socializing after a pandemic-enforced hiatus.

Toss Yer Cabers event saw 90 people play Warhammer 40,000, other popular miniature games

A set of Warhammer 40,000 miniatures owned and hand-painted by Chloë Mooney. Mooney and dozens of other tabletop-miniature gameplayers spent the weekend socializing and playing complicated wargames at Toss Yer Cabers, a charity tournament, in Vancouver. (Liam Britten/CBC)

At Vancouver's Croatian Cultural Centre, it was a return to almost normal for 90 members of Vancouver's tabletop gaming community.

Toss Yer Cabers, an annual charity tabletop gaming tournament, saw players break out odd-looking dice, thick rule books and intricately painted armies of figurines for a weekend of competition and socializing.

In normal years, there could be dozens of tabletop gaming events with a wide range of attendance numbers in Metro Vancouver. Due to the pandemic, many went on hiatus, including Toss Yer Cabers.

But organizer Findlay Craig and others in the local gaming scene said recent months have seen tabletop gaming tournaments in the Lower Mainland starting to return.

In addition to the usual equipment for a tabletop wargaming tournament, players were equipped with masks and hand sanitizer and were obligated to show proof of vaccination. (Liam Britten/CBC)

"People are so excited about the chance to get together, to see each other and to have a little kind of sense of normalcy again," said Craig, 36.

"I think a lot of people felt very isolated. … And a lot of people took that really, really hard."

"So us being able to actually get back to see each other, to being in the same room, it's a big deal."

Findlay Craig organized the first Toss Yer Cabers fundraiser in 2014. (Liam Britten/CBC)

Beyond feeling the fun of competitive strategy gaming, Craig and participants called the weekend a welcome opportunity to reconvene a badly missed social scene.

Indoor games present challenges

Over the weekend, participants raised $11,000 for charities by playing Warhammer 40,000, the Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game and Marvel Crisis Protocol. 

The beneficiaries were the Lookout Society, which provides housing and support services to adults with low or no income; and the Vancouver Women's Health Collective, which fosters and advocates for health and equity for women.

Over the weekend, 90 players took part in the weekend's events. (Liam Britten/CBC)

The games are like a mix of Dungeons and Dragons, Risk and chess. 

Generally, two players move armies of fantasy and sci-fi figurines about 30 millimeters tall around a map. 

The painting of miniatures, scenery and backdrops for display is a time-consuming and exacting hobby. Kasra Houshidar, who painted this display, said he has been working on this one, on and off, for years. (Liam Britten/CBC)

They fight by rolling dice and comparing results, and the winner is usually the person who defeats the largest number of enemies. 

Miniature war games are usually played indoors with players only about a metre apart. Before the pandemic, players would meet in small game stores and hotel conference rooms, sometimes playing nearly shoulder-to-shoulder, a few dozen or more in the room at once. 

Brent Mooney's Warhammer 40,000 army, the alien Tyranids, in a game. (Liam Britten/CBC)

A scenario like that has been difficult to square with pandemic health guidelines. At Toss Yer Cabers and other B.C. tabletop events, masks and proof of vaccination have been mandatory.

Missing social side

Brent Mooney, 38, played in the Warhammer 40,000 event. He said he's been playing since he was 10 or 11.

He said many of his friends play the game too, and credits the game for helping him improve a speech impediment as a kid.

Chloë Moooney, left, and Brent Mooney show pieces from their miniature collections. (Liam Britten/CBC)

"It made me have to be in front of people. It made me have to push what felt comfortable, being in a store and rolling dice as a kid," Brent said.

"It's just very, very, very different. And very fun."

Chloë Mooney, Brent's wife, also played in the Warhammer 40,000 event.

Two armies from the Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game get ready to clash. (Liam Britten/CBC)

Before the pandemic, she said, they used to travel around North America for tournaments — they even made a detour during their honeymoon for one.

"It was a little bit sad the last couple of years that we weren't able to have that side of it, just the social side of it," said Chloë, 38.

Bernie Anderson, left, and Liam Smith play NetEpic Armageddon, a game involving even smaller miniatures — as small as six millimetres. (Liam Britten/CBC)

"It's a bit of a nice excuse to kind of do something out of the everyday ... something that my husband can enjoy and I can also enjoy."

With in-person gaming making a cautious comeback, she hopes they can get back to regular in-person events. She's also hopeful more women will join the male-dominated hobby.

Craig said 2021 was a banner year for Toss Yer Cabers, which has now raised $27,000 for charity since 2014.

Since many players spend thousands of dollars on miniatures for the hobby, Craig said it's important to give back.

"We have enough funds to buy toys and to play a game," Craig said. "We're privileged people and it's kind of our responsibility to ... make the world a slightly better place."

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